Friday, January 3, 2014

What's next?!

You may be wondering what is next for each of the book groups.  Below are the books that we will be doing for each group.  Feel free to get a copy, read and join us in the discussion.

Student Book Group:
February: The Personal History of Rachel DuPree
March: Serena
April: The Universe Versus Alex Woods

Student Organization:
November: The Casual Vacancy (I'm a little behind but questions soon)
January: Untold Story
        We the Animals
February: Girls in White Dresses
March: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
April: The Universe Versus Alex Woods (they join the book group)

Faculty/Staff Group:
The Power of Habit

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Cradle

My November book with the student book group was The Cradle.  This is one of those books that I'd never heard of but ended up liking.  One of the things that I like to do with my students is at some point have them come up with the questions.  With this being the third time we've met they were ready for a chance at being the questioners.  What I like to do is pass around note cards and have them write down questions then I will ask them.  That way all the pressure isn't on them!

Here are their questions:

- Did you like Marissa? Why?  Why not?
- Do you think Matt was raped as a child?
- Anyone else find the timeline wibbly-wobbly?
- How did you feel about the timeline in the story?  Confusing?  Kept you reading and interested?
- Did anyone realize that Renee's parts were during a different time period right away?  When did you realize?
- Do you think Matt's mom will go to meet him sometime?
- Why did Marissa never ask about what happened to the Cradle?
- I don't know if the book answered this but why do you think the Dad wasn't upset about Caroline leaving?

And a few of mine:
- Do you ever do like Marissa does and do little things to apologize or try to make something right?
- Do you find it interesting that she calls her readers her "army?"
- Is Matt on a Greek odyssey?

Friday, December 20, 2013

12 Years a Slave Book and Movie Discussion Questions

12 Years a Slave is a book that I had to read for two different classes while I was in college.  Being from Louisiana and this being a part of our history, it was a natural fit for both a Louisiana History course as well as an Antebellum South course.  When the movie began production here in Louisiana last year I had hoped that the release of the movie would work with being able to do a showing along with a discussion of the book.  In November we had just that opportunity.  I took a group of faculty, staff and students to see the movie and then a week later we gathered to discuss both the text and the film.  I highly encourage you to see the film as well as read the book.  As always there are differences and similarities but that is what makes comparing and contrasting them so interesting. 


-          Did you find yourself on edge when reading the book or viewing the movie? Why?  In a small way did if help you relate to the ongoing anxiety slaves endured?

-          Both in book and the film Brown and Hamilton are viewed as outsiders looking in as conspirators.  Why did Northup struggle to think badly of them in the narrative?  Is he naive?

-          What kept Solomon from falling into despair while living in this situation?  In the film he says he wants to live and not survive.  In the book how do we see Solomon do that?

-          Although born free how was Northup equipped with skills to be a slave because of his race and position in New York?

-          As good as Ford was heaving knowing about the work done up north being able to swim and how different he was, why not look closer into Northup’s history?  What do you think the conversation was like between Epps and Ford when it was revealed?

-          Had Solomon not experienced time as a slave would abolition have been as important for him to work towards?

-          What made Ford good and Epps bad?  In your opinion can a good slave owner exist?

-          How does gender shape the experiences of the slaves in Northup’s telling of his experience?

-          Both escape and revolt are mentioned in the narrative why were so few successful?  What factors worked against them?

-          Did you find yourself enjoying Tibeats’ beating?  Is some violence then justified?

-          Did the efforts of those like the kidnapped slave Arthur’s rescuers, the sailor John Manning, Ford, Bass, and Northup outweigh all the bad?  Do most movements of change begin with the work of a few?

-          Why Epps so hard on Patsey?  Because he loved her?  Was it a hard thing to understand so he had to break it?

-          Did Northup’s “willingness” to serve as a driver and take part in lies and beatings compromise him as a “hero”?

-          In the book and film the differences between being born free or born a slave are mentioned numerous times?  DO you think Solomon believers himself “superior”?

-           Why “flash-forward” scenes, sex, writing, and cane work at the beginning of the movie?

-          Did you feel more a part of the experience in the film because the way the story is told through experience and not in voice-over?

-          Why do you think Steve McQueen took time to show natural beauty of Louisiana?

-          Did the narrative and film have more of an impact because here in Louisiana and familiar – did it make you uncomfortable?  Guilty?

-          Why show Indians in movie when other things from the book were left out?

-          Why depict Northup hanging and not just bound?  Why leave camera shot up so long? Why show others going about their business?

-          Why not show Solomon’s escape attempt?

-          Why was the whipping scene with Patsey shot the way it was?  Not seeing back until Epps took lash?

-          Over and over McQueen puts cruelty and beauty in opposition – any that struck you?  Why?  (sex, nature, masters, human contact, slave pen in the capital)

-          P. 185 “I was in a fever of suspense whenever Bass visited Marksville, and could scarcely close my eyes until his return.”  Is this where McQueen drew the inspiration for the scene with the up-close of Northup?  Did his “stare” make you uncomfortable?  Why?  Was it a call to action?

Friday, December 13, 2013


Quiet turned out to be one of those books that everyone enjoyed and everyone got something from.  This is usually my main goal.  I'm okay with a middle of the ground book that everyone can be satisfied with, and this was a good one for that.

Below are the questions from pages 129 - 272.

- What has helped you as an introvert overcome introversion?
- When reading about stereotypes on pages 104 did you think about the images we see most often in Disney movies?
- When reading about Eleanor Roosevelt did it make you wonder if the "Eleanors" are the ones who remind the extroverts about feelings and sensitivities?
- Page 142 talks about some of the physical differences between introverts and extroverts does it remind you of the examples given on page 92?  Do you like that she keeps referring back to the other examples?
- Cain shares her experience of being at Walker Creek Ranch and how it made her yearn for balance in her life.  Is this something that you need as well?
- How should offices and bosses handle introverts in the workplace?
- For teachers or those that work with young students do you often feel like they talk nonsense like the students discussed on page 185?
- Should we all take some time to slow down and listen others sounds of silence?
- Does the child who sits and reads in public go back to the old school ideals of being "seen and not heard?"
- Do you ever feel like you are playing a "role?"
- Do we change who we are to fit a certain situation?
- What can we learn from Gandhi's firmness in pursuit of truth?"
- On page 207 Cain puts forth an interesting question: Can people fine-tune their own personalities this way?  Be one way during the week and a different way on the weekend?
- Where do you "hide" to recharge?
- "Core personal projects" allows us to act out of character - do you agree?
- Is "Free Trait Theory" an American version of Gandhi's compromise and Asian's view of respecting others?
- Are you starting to get tired of all the quizes?  Do you feel she is breaking the idea of an introvert down too much?
- How did you feel about Greg and Emily?  Did you feel like one or both of them were unreasonable?  Did you like how they compromised?
- Do you feel like when you participate in things that you do better when you know what your contribution is meant to be?
- Did you like the book?
- Will you share it with others?
- Would you recommend it to others?